The Texas A&M soccer team finished with 27 shots en route to a 4-1 win over rival Texas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
With the victory, A&M advances to the second round for the 22nd consecutive season. The Aggies currently hold the third-longest active streak of advances, behind only North Carolina and Virginia.
“How could you not perform in front of a crowd like that tonight,” A&M associate head coach Phil Stephenson said. “It was over 3,000, I think. I was just told that, absolutely amazing 12th Man, and the team rose to the occasion.”
The Aggies began slow, which gave the Longhorns an opportunity to gain momentum early. A goal by Texas junior forward Cydney Billups gave the Longhorns a 1-0 just seven minutes into the game.
“We didn't start off particularly well,” Stephenson said. “It was a matter of just clawing our way back into the game. One pass at a time and the players responded too.”
A&M would respond in the 24th minute, when a long shot from junior midfielder Taylor Ziemer went into the net. A goal in the 44th minute by Taylor’s sister Tera gave the Aggies a 2-1 lead at halftime. In the first half, the Aggies dominated the shot count, totaling 16 shots compared to Texas’ six, including six shots on goal.
“We went into the game knowing that the width was going to be open,” Taylor Ziemer said. “[We] did a good job just keeping the ball, switching it from side to side and using our width to get in and get crosses. Also they were pretty exposed... the game was open. We were able to kind of find holes in them and as we moved to the ball we were able to kind of pick them apart and there was a lot of space, so we were able to get a lot of chances.”
A&M senior midfielder Grace Piper scored a goal in the 56th minute to extend the Aggies’ lead to 3-1. An own goal by Texas in the 72nd minute gave A&M a 4-1 lead.
Stephenson said freshman goalkeeper Kenna Caldwell was dominant in the second half, as she kept the Longhorns scoreless in the second half while also recording seven saves.
“In the second half I thought she calmed down,” Stephenson said. “She's just great in the air. It's neat for the back line, especially to know that they've got somebody behind them that just takes everything. She made two good saves and just didn't let them in the game.”
A&M head coach G Guerrieri missed the game as he is in Indiana dealing with a family matter. Taylor Ziemer said the Aggies wanted to win for him.
“We know he would have done most anything to be there,” Taylor Ziemer said. “We went out there and one of the things we said was to do it for G. This is a game that meant a lot to him and I'm sure that he was really proud of us beating them like that and the way we played. He was a big part of what we went out there to do.”
Despite the prevalence of the rivalry between Texas and A&M, this matchup marks the first time the Longhorns and Aggies have faced each other in soccer since A&M’s last Big 12 season in 2011. Being able to revisit the rivalry, especially in the NCAA Tournament, was a game they looked forward to, Piper said.
“We've been talking about this game since we got recruited and wanting to play in it,” Piper said. “It's been something we've missed for a few years. To get to do that as my last game on Ellis field is just the most memorable thing ever, and to have the 12th Man show up in full force meant so much to us.”
With the victory, the Aggies move on to the second round, where they will face either Southern California or California State, Fullerton next weekend.